(CNN) – ISIS is losing major manpower in Syria and Iraq. U.S. officials say, since 2014, the American-led coalition to fight ISIS has killed 75% of the terror group’s fighting ranks.
As president Obama prepares to handoff the fight against ISIS to the new commander-in-chief Donald Trump, the White House says there has been significant progress.
Brett McGurk of the U.S. Envoy to the Coalition Against ISIS, said, “The number of battle-ready fighters inside Iraq and Syria is now at its lowest point that it’s ever been.”
The U.S. estimates there are now 12,000-15,000 ISIS personnel, which is a dramatic decline from the peak in September 2014, when ISIS had amassed close to 32,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS had always been able to replace its ranks, moving people across the Turkish border into Syria, but no more.
McGurk noted, “ISIL now has no access to international border, and this has significantly impacted the overall campaign, because they are now a very isolated entity.”
Based on estimates from nearly 17,000 coalition strikes, the U.S. believes 50,000 ISIS fighters, in total, have been killed over the last two years. Its ranks slashed by nearly 75%.
The top coalition commander says that’s only part of the story.
Commander of US forces in Iraq and Syria, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, said, “We’ve taken back over half of the land that Iraq, for example, lost to ISIL in 2014. So, I think that’s a measure of the progress.”
Now, the top priority is getting ISIS out of its self-declared capital in Raqqa, Syria.
Lt. Gen. Townsend added, “We also know that they are plotting attacks on the West, and we know that central to external operations plotting, is the city of Raqqa. That’s why we need to get down there and isolate that city as fast as we can.”
U.S. Special Operations forces watch Raqqa around the clock from drones overhead. It’s all led to key intelligence and a critical strike.
One drone struck a vehicle with three ISIS leaders inside. They were operatives that had been involved, according to the U.S., in attacks against the west. Two of them were said to have facilitated the deadly attacks in Paris last year.
Even with the death of many fighters, ISIS has not given up the fight. ISIS has retaken the area around Palmyra and captured Syrian regime weapons.